Texas Liberal

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In Praise Of Gene Kelly & Outlaw Josey Wales

Two perennial candidates for office in Texas are Gene Kelly and Outlaw Josey Wales.

Mr. Kelly runs statewide and Mr. Wales runs for Mayor of Houston.

In the recently contested Texas primary, Mr. Kelly won 27% in the Democratic U.S. Senate primary against Rick Noriega. Mr. Noriega won the primary and avoided a runoff with 51% of the vote. 

Here is some information about Mr. Kelly from today’s Houston Chronicle.

Kelly is a reclusive retired military judge and lawyer from Universal City, a San Antonio suburb. He traditionally does little more than pay his filing fee, but apparently he wins votes because he has the same name as the late movie star and dancer.

Since 1990, Kelly has run for the Texas Supreme Court, Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, attorney general and U.S. Senate.

In 2006, he forced Barbara Ann Radnofsky into a runoff in the Democratic U.S. Senate race. She overcame with “the dancer is dead” campaign, but the fact that she was in a runoff is believed to have cost her financial support from national Democratic donors.

Many candidates have an aspect of personal identity that wins them votes.

Did Mr. Noriega win votes because he is Hispanic? ( This no doubt cost him some votes as well.)

Some people voted for Barack Obama because he is black. Hillary Clinton gets some votes for being a woman and she has a famous last name. 

So what? That’s democracy for you. It’s a big spin of the wheel.  

It’s not Gene Kelly’s fault that by simply putting his name on the ballot he wins a quarter of the vote. I say more power to Mr. Kelly.  

If the party that likes to think of itself as the more “enlightened” party has to convince people that the actual “Singing in the Rain” Gene Kelly is not on the ballot–Well, then we have bigger problems than Mr. Kelly’s presence on the ballot. 

Here in Houston, I am a big fan of Outlaw Josey Wales.   

That’s his legal name.

Mr. Wales ran for Mayor of Houston last year. 

In 1999, I voted for Mr. Wales against incumbent Houston Mayor Lee Brown.

Mr. Brown was certain to win the election. I did not think so much of Mr. Brown. 

Once I convinced myself that Mr. Wales was not a right-wing kook, I figured what the hell? 

Two years later when Mr. Brown had a serious Republican challenger, I voted for Mr. Brown.

Here is what I said about Mr. Wales last October

As for Mr. Wales, self-creation and starting fresh are acts fully consistent with Houston and with politics.

He changed his name because he wanted to make some money. Good for him. I hope he made some money. If I thought I could make a lot of money by changing my name to Wyatt Earp, I would likely do so..   

Mr. Wales has had fewer names than former Texas Comptroller and candidate for Governor One Tough Grandma Carole Keeton Rylander Strayhorn…. 

Bloggers give themselves new names and made-up names all the time…

I don’t care what people choose to call themselves.    

Is Mr. Wales anymore or less stable than our civic Founding Father Sam Houston? Mr. Houston used to walk around Houston dressed as a cross between a frontiersman and an Indian. Sam Houston was, in his way, a serious and talented man.

Is Mr. Wales any more or less serious than the process of how we elect our city officials in Houston with silly six year term limits and terrible turnout? I think Mr. Wales might in fact be somewhat dignified for such a screwed-up process.  

Absurdity is a refuge from the day-to-day pain of life. As long as absurdity does not become detachment, what harm does it do?   

I look forward to seeing Mr. Kelly and Mr. Wales on the ballot many more times.    

March 6, 2008 Posted by | Campaign 2008, Houston, Houston Council Election '07, Politics, Texas, Texas Political History, Texas Primary '08 | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments